-by Mary B. O’Neill
Noble Horizons remains COVID-free in large part because of its proactive preparation, meticulous dedication to detail, precise implementation of CDC protocols, and a team united in its determination to keep every resident safe. In fact, in an interview with WHDD radio, Administrator Bill Pond insists that the residents have helped, “People totally grasp why we’re doing what we’re doing.” According to Pond, their COVID strategy works because the entire Noble community embraces it and works together. Noble Horizons has long been a leader in elder care and is building on its established standards of excellence. Such a firm foundation undergirds the intensive and scrupulous efforts required to combat COVID. In fact, just last week Noble Horizons was awarded its second consecutive 5-star rating from The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, a rare and coveted distinction.
The pandemic has “turned everybody’s world upside down,” Pond acknowledges. Though Noble residents remain COVID-free, “It draws a certain amount of restriction and change that many on our campus are not used to.” Because the Noble community has always welcomed the broader community for programs, events, classes, exercise and outpatient rehab, it’s been a substantial change. Pond asserts, “We did shut down very early on. I think that’s been helpful as the starting point and guided us to this point today.” While outside visitation is restricted, Noble’s Recreation and Community Relations teams have helped residents stay in touch with family and friends. Preferring to practice physical but not social distancing, Recreation team offers creative and engaging activities that residents enjoy from the threshold of their rooms. Highlights have included multiple parades, ice cream socials, staff dancing the Macarena, sing-alongs, and outdoor time on Noble’s many patios, terraces, and trails.
Noble not only strictly adheres to CDC and DPH protocols, but has carefully assembled a strong inventory of PPE for Noble staff. If a challenge should arise, there are contingency plans in place. Pond credits Director of Nursing Molly Tanner, R.N., also Director of Infection Control, for her exceptional management during this crisis. “Infection control is ongoing,” offers Tanner. “Education and regular surveillance is a huge piece of that in every department. Practices such as proper hand washing and use of PPE are part of what I look for as I make my rounds two to three times a day.” In between those rounds, she makes sure every department and floor at Noble are adhering to guidelines and government regulations. Tanner is quick to credit the Noble team for their dedication and teamwork. “Kudos to our staff. They’re well-educated and doing the right things by our residents.” Tanner’s infection control expertise has been crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. “From the moment I get into the building, my whole thought process is devoted to COVID and how to keep it out of Noble.” Tanner meets with Pond every day to discuss possible changes in procedure and relays new information to staff as needed. Tanner also coordinates with her staff supplier each day to review the number of gowns, masks, gloves, sanitizers, and wipes used the day before and then double-checks it against the remaining inventory.
Complementing the efforts of Pond and Tanner is Director of Staff Education Agnieszka Ostrowski, R.N., who manages an extensive array of regulations, protocols, and classes. Her efforts ensure that every Noble team member meets the latest training requirements and certification standards. During the pandemic, these standards have changed frequently as the medical community’s understanding of COVID evolves. Ostrowski’s teaching and evaluation of staff occur in a variety of settings across the Noble campus. When she’s on the floors, which is often, she must be convinced that everyone is doing all they can to keep residents safe. In today’s environment, that’s in the details. “I need to be satisfied that everyone is practicing the most basic aspects of care. I want to see how they’re washing their hands and putting on and taking off PPE.”
For Pond, Tanner, and Ostrowski, communication is vital, especially as new regulations and standards are handed down daily from state and federal bodies. Says Ostrowski, “We have three shifts every day that must be kept up to date through binders of information, email, and socially distanced face-to-face meetings. One person cannot do this alone. It has to come from the team. Everyone has to have the same information and be able to act on it.” Director meetings, updates, and problem-solving take place daily at 9 a.m. Larger meetings are held outdoors to ensure safe social distancing and afford staff an opportunity to enjoy Noble’s picturesque campus when weather permits. According to Tanner and Ostrowski, these gatherings are critical to the creative strategies needed to safeguard residents.
Pond is inspired by the Noble team’s exceptional commitment, effusive about its dedication, grateful for its expertise and firm in his belief that they are meeting the challenge of keeping every Noble resident COVID free.